Day 23 – Cintalpa to San Cristobal De Las Casas

Today’s goal was to reach San Cristobal de Las Casas, where we were planning to meet up with Stephen who is riding from Chicago to Central or South America. Stephen and a couple of other riders (Eric and Sabrina) are currently hanging out in San Cristobal – Stephen is waiting for a part to fix his bike, and Eric and Sabrina are taking Spanish classes at a language school here.

We headed out around 9:30AM (we got a slightly late start because Kay started feeling nauseous again today… we think the problem is when you take the anti-malaria pills first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and then exert yourself, so Kay spent a fair amount of time resting between loading up the bike and generally taking it easy, and didn’t actually hurl).

Finding breakfast in the mornings has been difficult for us on the road, because we’ve had trouble finding places that are open, so we have been settling for convenience store food (Oxxo hot dogs are the latest favorite) to keep us going until we can grab food on a spit around lunch time. We saw a convenience store that wasn’t an Oxxo, but we thought we’d stop, because there was a coffee sign… and walked in to see that next to the convenience store was a restaurant. With real breakfast. And a surprise mochaccino, which made me very happy!

Surprise Mochachino

The plan was to meet up with Stephen and maybe grab a bite and trade stories/tips/info. However, passing through Tuxtla Gutierrez threw a bit of a wrench into our plans. We ran into a lot of construction, and traffic was worse going through there on 190 than it was in Mexico City. It took us well over an hour to get through the city (which probably would have only taken about 10 minutes under normal circumstances) and we didn’t make as good time as we’d hoped.

The road conditions were poor in places (i.e. go into a twisty through the mountains to find sand in the road, or giant potholes, or even entire sections where the road has dropped away and they’ve got it blocked off, but it’s suddenly one lane) and I wasn’t riding as fast as we had in the morning.

At one point, we stopped because the tires that Kay is carrying were starting to sag and needed to be addressed, and discovered that we’d parked next to a town in the mountains with a lake that seemed to have flooded the town. It was interesting, but odd… we didn’t figure out exactly why the proportions seemed wrong until we looked at the photos we’d downloaded from the camera and zoomed way in. But yes, that’s water in those streets.

The Flooded Town

The delays and my slow riding conspired to delay us getting to San Cristobal until around 3PM. At that point, there wasn’t much chance of us hanging out for very long and getting much further in the day, so we opted to spend the night here. Luckily, the school where these guys are staying also has rooms for travelers, and we were able to get a room at the school.

Stephen, Eric and Sabrina were very cool to hang out with. They took us down into the city on foot, which is a totally different experience than walking through, and we wandered around for a bit and met up with one of their friends here. Eric bought a hat, but Kay hasn’t found just the right hat to replace the floppy one he thinks he left in Mexico City, so the hat quest continues. The crew grabbed food to bring back and prepare at the school, where there is a convenient kitchen, and we had an awesome meal of delicious meat, tortillas, a lovely salad that Sabrina prepared and some nice salsa and cilantro/onion mix.

Kay and I have been traveling fairly quickly. We’ve been making decent mileage every day, riding from around 9AM until dark most days (except when we’re seeing ruins). We haven’t really had a chance to just hang out with people since we started the trip. It was really nice to just sit around a table and chat, and then later sit around a fire on the roof deck with a beautiful nighttime view of San Cristobal. We chatted about gear, traveling, bikes, kit – all the stuff you’d expect adventure riders to talk about when they’re gathered in one spot.

They gave us lots of info about places they’ve been and things they’ve seen, and I’m kind of envious that they’re taking the trip at a much slower pace. Kay and I are on a timeframe that requires us to keep moving, and I feel like we’ve missed out on some of the great experiences that these guys have had by standing still for more than a night. We haven’t really immersed ourselves in the culture – we’ve just been passing through. These guys know so much more about the area because they’ve spent time here – they know the stories and the cool spots and have had these interesting experiences.

Because of our timeframe, the trip we’re taking is different. We’re getting more really brief windows into the lives of the people we pass, instead of immersion in the culture of the places we travel through. Part of me wishes we could afford to sit here for a month and learn Spanish in this school and hang out in this town and really get to know the people. But if we did, we’d have no chance of reaching our ultimate goal – Ushuaia.

The traveling was really our goal in taking this trip. We wanted to see and experience other cultures, but we’ve also been interested in the roads, the great places to see and the “passing through” aspect of this trip. I’m beginning to wonder now if this wouldn’t be much better done in a different sort of way, but our finances and our timeframe simply wouldn’t support that right now. I do think, though, that for the next trip, we’re going to want to take a lot more time and have a more open-ended plan so we can afford to stay for a week or a month and really get to know the people and places we pass through.

When Stephen, Eric and Sabrina asked if we’d like to stick around longer, apparently my face lit up (Kay says I got a huge smile) and so we’ve decided to stick around San Cristobal for another day. We’ll hang out, maybe see some sites and chill with other like-minded folk. This will be the first rest day we’ve taken because we’ve wanted to stay for a day – the other two days we haven’t traveled, we stayed because of bike-related stuff. I’m looking forward to a chill day where we’re just hanging out because we want to.

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